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Cape Fox Land Bill Amended To Meet Juneau Concern;
Continues To Support Mine Development

March 11, 2004
Thursday - 12:50 am

In an effort to meet the concerns of Juneau residents with a proposed land trade north of Berners Bay, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced Wednesday she will amend her bill to protect the viewshed from the waters of Berners Bay and to allow for limited public access along the shoreline of the western portion of the Bay and along Slate Cove.

Murkowski, during a formal subcommittee hearing regarding the proposed Cape Fox Land Entitlement Adjustment Act of 2003 (S. 1354) and another Southeast bill, said she has decided to make the changes as a result of public testimony in Juneau during a town meeting on the land exchange held last September.

Murkowski said that upon review of the legislation, some of the other concerns expressed at the Juneau hearing have already been met. She noted that Native concerns about protection of Tlingit historic sites and funeral areas have already been met by conveyance of the property to Sealaska, which has power to fully preserve and protect such sites under terms of both the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. And she noted that general environmental concerns expressed at the hearing are being met since the mine will have to clear its Environmental Impact Statement review and gain environmental permits prior to development.

"It is my hope that we will be able to work with Juneau residents, Cape Fox and Sealaska to refine this amendment so that a consensus can be reached to allow for both the ability of the area to support a more diversified economy in Juneau without compromising the beauty of Berners Bay," said Murkowski.

She said she is proceeding with legislation to complete the land trade because the trade will solve an inequity involving Cape Fox, the Native village corporation for Saxman. It was precluded from selecting its ANCSA lands within 6 miles of Ketchikan, while all other Native corporations were only restricted from selecting within 2 miles of a home rule city. She said the restriction prevented Cape Fox from selecting valuable land, not only in its core township but in surrounding lands, partially because its selection area was restricted by the Annette Island Indian Reservation. She added the provision effectively forced Cape Fox to select non-productive, non-economic mountainous lands, causing the corporation's shareholders to be sorely disadvantaged over the years.

Murkowski said in response to the Juneau testimony, she did attempt to find other uncommitted lands of equal value in Southeast that could be offered to Cape Fox, but was unable to do so. "Cape Fox was placed on an unequal economic footing relative to the other corporations in Southeast. Despite its best efforts, Cape Fox has been unable to overcome the disadvantages the law built into its land selection opportunities by this inequitable treatment. This bill is needed to solve that problem," she said.

The bill:

  • Allows Cape Fox to return its 160 acres of selection in the northeast corner of its core township and gain 99 acres of timber land adjacent to Cape Fox's current holdings on Revilla Island.
  • Allows Cape Fox, Sealaska Corp. and the Secretary of Agriculture to be authorized to enter into an equal value land exchange, the corporations gaining surface and subsurface estate on lands surrounding the patented claims of the Kensington and Jualin gold mines in return for corporations giving up other lands in Southeast. While the mines are guaranteed the right to proceed, the land exchange will allow Cape Fox to benefit from development of the mine road and tailings disposal site at Slate Lakes, while Sealaska will gain should mineral zones from the mines extend onto their subsurface estate. The land trade might also facilitate the speed of the mine's development.

Murkowski argued that Juneau certainly stands to benefit economically from the mine, which will offer 225 jobs, helping to diversify the government-based economy of the town.

Murkowski at the hearing also heard testimony on another Southeast land bill, a land exchange for the City of Craig on Prince of Wales Island (S. 1778). The bill will allow the City of Craig to acquire the site of the former Wards Cove Packing Company's fish processing plant in downtown Craig in return for exchanging the Sunnahae property and trail in Craig to the U.S. Forest Service.

The exchange, co-sponsored by Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, involves the Forest Service receiving the 349 acres of trail, trailhead and parking area along with mountaintop property. Craig then will use federal funding to acquire the 221,000-square-foot building site (on 10 acres) of the former cannery, located on the waterfront at Third and Main Streets. The site is the prime location for economic, commercial or industrial development in central Prince of Wales Island.

The exchange will allow the Forest Service to acquire a prime recreation and hiking trail that leads to Mount Sunnahae, located east of Craig, plus a large recreation track on the north side of the mountain. Murkowski said the trade would also give the Forest Service's Craig Ranger District Station forest lands to manage. Currently, the ranger station is in the unusual situation of being in an in-holding surrounded by private, state and city-owned lands.

Murkowski said she introduced the bill at the request of island residents to assist Prince of Wales residents in diversifying their economy to overcome the losses caused by the downturn in the area's timber industry. The bill requires an appraisal by a qualified outside appraiser before the exchange takes place. In addition, the legislation allows for an appropriation of $250,000 to the Forest Service for trail maintenance and rehabilitation on the property.

After the hearing both bills will likely go before the full Energy Committee for its review.



Source of News Release:

Office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski
Web Site


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